You makes your choice and pays your money, but generally children enjoy the productions, even if we parents end up baffled by their meaning.
We’ve done a round up of some of the theatre groups which put on regular performances for children, as well as comment on some recent productions, so you can get a feel for the type, suitability and standard of what’s around.
‘Once Upon a Time’ (’07), and ‘In Search of the Missing Reindeer’ (’08), both at St James Cavalier, Valletta.
Kids verdict: great fun (3 and 6 yr olds). Both these productions were a suitable 1.5 hours long. You don’t really want more at that age. The beauty of St James Cavalier theatre is that it is ‘in the round’, and you are never more than a metre or so from the actors. As an adult, I love the venue, and can only begin to imagine how enthralling it is for children to be so close to the action. Also, it is easy to get the kids totally involved. During ‘In Search of the Missing Reindeer’, the cast got the kids singing, cheering and jeering, gave out penguin masks and got all the kids on ‘stage’ for a picture (which Curtain Raiser duly emailed). Also, sign up for St James Cavalier enews and you’ll never miss a good production there.
Cinderella Confidential (‘April 09), Manoel Theatre
This was less of a success perhaps because Curtain Raiser’s style thrives on interaction, which can’t be done well in a more traditional theatre. The girls (aged 4 – 7 yrs) enjoyed the Sunday matinee, but the since the story wasn’t the traditional one – it focused on what happens between the losing and finding of the glass slipper – the girls were baffled about why Cinders was never in in her ball dress.
The dialogue was fast and funky, but with jokes and vocabulary better suited to eight year olds and over. But the publicity material said it was suitable for ‘over 3s’; the matinee was full of bored, bamboozled pre-schoolers.
The Twitts (’07), James and The Giant Peach (Apr 09) both in MITP, St Christopher St, Valletta (they’ve also done Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
This is a group made up of University Students, so the performances are energetic but not overly ‘professional’. Roald Dahl is a winner with kids and even very young ones got something out of James and the Giant Peach. Older kids were spellbound by the production.
MITP is a good venue for kids (as long as they don’t fall off the scaffolding benches, which form the seating!). The studio setting is great for kids’ theatre as everyone has a clear view, and they can wriggle around without bashing the back of anyone’s seat. MITP has no website, but tickets are often sold via St James Cavalier; and its events are listed on maltaculture.com, the official government arts’ council site.
The Story of Babar – Music Room, St James, (Spring 09)
This hour-long musical cum drama production was brilliant (kids’ and adults’ comments). Sarah Spiteri is an accomplished violinist and ensures music is the key element of the action. She does a wonderful introduction to the musicians and instruments that accompany her. She is also excellent at storytelling and getting kids involved. Most kids were enthralled but the venue – more formal seating rows – meant some kids were fidgeting around and not concentrating as perhaps they couldn’t see well. However, with her next production….
The Carnival of the Animals, April 09, (photo above)
A great outdoor setting in gardens below the main road up to Castille, Valletta, which should be used more often for productions. We walked under the road arch from the Central Bank entrance to get there. The stage was at the right height for the kids to lean on it and gaze at the action…animals (and fossils?) springing up from all over the place in amazing costumes. Sarah’s group of musicians played serenely under sun umbrellas. All the kids seemed to be completely enthralled by the action, and the open air, no seating setting meant they could wriggle, wander around, go to the loo, ask questions, eat sweets…all without parents having to say ‘SHHH’, ‘sit STILL’ or squeeze past anyone. Verdict – perfect for all!
Mediterranean Conference Centre
Beauty and The Beast (Disney): Predictably spectacular with ticket prices to match (€25 to €65), kids from 4-8 in my group, they all loved it. As did the grandmother (without grandchildren in tow), who sat beside me. 2 hours, but no-one minded.
Sleeping Beauty (Moscow Ballet Theatre). No orchestra, which I really missed. Two and a half hours, but kids were restless from very early on. Luckily the theatre was half empty on Easter Sunday, so I could move back several rows and not worry about disturbing anyone.
Swan Lake on Ice (another Russian travelling company). Kids loved it; I didn’t (again no orchestra, but I guess you can’t have ice and musicians).
The Nutcracker (The Crown of Russian Ballet). Just took the 7 year old. It was a production by local kids, and my daughter loved seeing them in action.
Swan Lake (Bolshoi Ballet) 2007. Utterly brilliant; it even kept my two year old entertained!